Don't spread VHS from Simcoe

Photo courtesy of Wil Wegman
While fishing for the beautiful smallmouth in Lake Simcoe, remember to clean your boat and livewell thoroughly to avoid spreading VHS from Simcoe to another body of water.

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The Aurora Bassmasters would like to remind all boaters and anglers who visit Lake Simcoe to avoid inadvertently transferring water from this lake to others in the province.

“Boaters can follow a series of simple yet effective preventive measures in order to slow the spread of Viral Hemorrhagic Septicaemia (VHS), which was confirmed  in Lake Simcoe last year,” said David Meadows, president of the Ontario B.A.S.S. Federation Nation club. The deadly fish virus has already been responsible for significant fish die-offs in Lake Ontario and was responsible for a fish die-off in Lake Simcoe last year. Lake Simcoe and her tributaries are now VHS-positive and fish or water transferred from this watershed to another could infect a new, clean body of water somewhere else.

About VHS:

VHS is a highly contagious disease that can weaken and kill fish. Not all fish carrying the virus show symptoms of the disease. Some fish may not succumb to VHS until a major stressor – such as spawning or rapidly fluctuating water temperatures – occurs. VHS-infected fish pose no risk to human health and are safe to eat and handle; however, as a precaution, fish that appear sick should not be harvested. Many species of fish are susceptible, including walleye, yellow perch, muskellunge, smallmouth and largemouth bass, black crappie, sunfish, gobies and emerald shiners.

Anglers are asked to do their part to slow the spread of the virus by disinfecting livewells (one part household bleach to 10 parts water) between water bodies and to ensure they don’t transfer baitfish or water from Lake Simcoe to any other water body.

“Although it’s terrible to see a thousand fish die off because of VHS in large water bodies like Lake Ontario or Lake Simcoe, these lakes have such high fish populations that the overall fish community may not appear to be too adversely affected. However, if VHS was transferred from Lake Simcoe to a small water body in northern Ontario, and a thousand fish died there because they were susceptible to the virus, then I am sure that could drastically affect the smaller fish population,” concluded Meadows.

Boaters Do Your Part:

  • Inspect your boat for any visible aquatic hitchhikers. Look for hanging weeds and zebra mussels from trailers and boats.
  • Clean boat and trailer of those hitchhikers. Remove weeds and mud. Clean and disinfect livewells with one part bleach to 10 parts water. Rinse with clean water afterward.
  • Drain water from the lower unit of your motor by lowering the outboard when the boat is pulled out of the water at the ramp. Routinely pull your drain plug while you’re at the back of the boat. Automatic or manual bilge pumps do not remove all water from your boat. Pulling your plug is important if you don’t want to bring new, potentially infected lake water to the next lake you visit. Allow all water to drain from your boat and motor.

Anglers who use live baitfish caught or purchased from the Lake Simcoe area should be certain to only use their bait locally and not to bring their minnows to another lake.

With bass season opening tomorrow, June 23, members of the Aurora Bassmasters remind anglers that if they catch a tagged bass in lakes Simcoe or Couchiching to write the numbers of the tags and phone number on a piece of paper. Take a quick measurement or weight, then carefully release the bass alive so it can continue to be part of the research program. Then, call the MNR phone number on the tag and report details of the catch.

For more information on VHS, visit the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources' website and type VHS in the search engine.

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